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Kerry Washington 'struggled' with Olivia's dark side in Scandal finale

Plus: More revelations from the cast’s Paley Center panel

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Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Scandal. Read at your own risk.

Is Olivia Pope’s white hat gone for good? Kerry Washington’s beloved Scandal character went to new extremes in Thursday’s season 6 finale, proving that infamous chair beating only scratched the surface of her dark side.

“I said to Shonda [Rhimes], ‘These last two episodes were very challenging for me,'” Washington said of the new Olivia at the Paley Center’s Ultimate Scandal Watch Party in New York City Thursday. “I really struggled, but it was fun to play with the dark side, to play with dabbling in the ways of my father.”

Among the shocking developments: Olivia convinces new VP Luna Vargas to take her own life after she discovers that Luna, under the influence of Cyrus (Jeff Perry), was responsible for her husband Frankie Vargas’ assassination.

“It’s been coming for a while,” Washington said of Olivia’s shift, which finds her confronting Cyrus about his scheme yet comfortable offering him the vice presidency in the wake of Luna’s death. “I feel like a couple episodes ago when she says, ‘You don’t take Olivia Pope, Olivia Pope takes you,’ it was like, ‘Oh, I’m literally trying on my father’s words,’ and I guess it felt good.”

Speaking with EW editor in chief Henry Goldblatt after a screening of the two-hour finale, Washington and her costars touched on more moments in the finale and shared never-before-heard stories from set. Read on for their revelations.

1. How the cast reacted to news season 7 will be its last
“We were all on the phone together, on a call with Shonda, and she told us the news,” explained Washington. “And I said on the call that I felt it was very surreal.”

Still, Washington says the cast is filled with a “great deal of gratitude” that they have the next season to complete their story. “I felt excited about next season, because a lot of the times, as an actor, you don’t know when you’re going to be out of a job,” she explained. “It’s actually really nice to have a warning and to be able to make the commitment to say, ‘You know what, I’m going to go ahead and give this final season my all, put it all out on the table, don’t leave anything behind, no regrets.”

Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic

2. Papa Pope was almost killed off — sort of
Can you imagine Scandal without Rowan (Joe Morton)? “In the 100th episode, there was a story line where Jake kills Papa Pope,” reveals Scott Foley (Jake). “It didn’t make it in.”

As the audience shrieked, Morton assured everyone, “You have to remember, it was the alternate universe episode,” pointing out he would have been just fine in the next episode.

3. How it was decided that Katie Lowes’ pregnancy would be written into the show
“That was not up to me,” explained Lowes of Quinn’s surprise pregnancy. “Shonda knew when I was like five minutes pregnant. That was the extent. My husband likes to say, ‘She was not in the room with us.’ But [Rhimes and I] just had the conversation. We never spoke again about how she was going to deal with it. It’s Shonda Rhimes. Whatever she wants to do is fine by me.”

She added: “When we got to the table read where Quinn said she’s pregnant, I hadn’t told them. The room was filled with a ton of people, and so I sort of had to say I was pregnant before a lot of people, and it was frickin’ crazy. I went up to Shonda afterward and she said, ‘Oops, sorry I didn’t tell you.'”

4. How the writing process has changed
“There was a time when our writers would [develop] the story and then split apart and specific writers followed specific characters, and so for the first three years, there was a continuity of voice to your thought and speech pattern. It was consistent,” shared Bellamy Young (Mellie). “Then they revised how they worked the writers’ room, and so different people wrote different episodes, and I could tell a shift. Now I can tell the difference when I’m in a different person’s mind, but I’ve never come across [a time when I’ve] said, ‘I would never!'”

J. Kempin/Getty Images

5. What it was like for Jeff Perry to work with daughter Zoe
In the third to last episode of season 6, we see the severed head of Mystery Woman — played by Zoe Perry, the Cyrus actor’s daughter in real life — detached from her body. “The team is so crazy good at it that it was kind of nightmare-making,” Perry said. “And I said, ‘I don’t need to see that. I’d like to see everything right before that and everything after that.'”

Though the father and daughter never shared a scene together, Perry said it was so “fun to sit in the makeup trailer and run lines.”

Scandal returns to ABC in the fall.